In a culture rampant with spreading diseases like Ebola or AIDS, it comes as no surprise when well meaning people attempt to apply their newly acquired training to sanitize their world.
Germs get on everything. They can spread unseen and contaminate everything they touch. Those in white lab coats tell us that the solution is to wash everything. Make an exception, and you risk contamination. Everything must be sanitized.
That includes surgical scrubbing even of the Christian gospel. Not even the glorious offering of grace is allowed to travel unrestricted. As the Claiming Christ book noted in its appendix, the grace of God is a teaching that many have found in need of a good scrubbing.
And yet, throughout history, there have arisen a few powerful voices, brave enough to call attention to the real threats against humanity. The first appendix echoed the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
A Christian preacher and live’r-of-what-he-taught, Bonhoeffer willingly walked back into the dragon’s den of Nazi Germany and confronted the two-headed beast in his day. The most recognized foe was Hitler and his monstrous abuse that contaminated so many in his day. Doing so cost Bonhoeffer his freedom and his life in a concentration camp that ended with the gallows.
However, it was the seconded demon-head that he fought with the most vigor. The first breathed fire, the second spewed poison. The first eventually hid in a bunker and died while all the world watched. The second head of the beast continues to flail about, injecting the poison of deception. It found sanctuary where few look for such evil…in the Church.
Bonhoeffer challenged the beast of abuse against the gospel, and he did so by starting with his very own denomination:
“We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcase [sic] of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ…in fact we have exalted that doctrine to the position of God himself. Everywhere Luther’s formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception…we justified the world, and condemned as heretics those who tried to follow Christ.” (The Cost of Discipleship)
The poisonous doctrine (or teaching), that he says has been elevated in the church to the importance of God, is Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” (or in modern terms “once-saved-always-saved”). Scripture never says such a thing. It is a teaching that has poisoned the communion cup of Christ and drips from the corners of many mouths.
Calvin and his followers got so caught up with this concept that they even burned alive fellow Christians who differed. They “condemned as heretics” those who have tried to follow what the Bible actually states.
To understand the grace of God, one must receive it within the context of Scripture–which is full of spilled blood and even the flicking of it on everyone–and refuse the latex-gloved treatment of philosophical sanitizing. There is a place for such efforts, but not upon the words of God. They can only be digested, when taken as presented, in spite of how the medicine makes us feel at the moment.
Grace doesn’t survive outside of crucifixion, both Jesus and ours, and that is messy business. It is foolishness to most. As promoted by many ministers, grace is undeserved mercy that costs us nothing. That is how this quoted theologian defines his battle against cheap grace.
“Cheap grace is grace…without the cross”.
You could read what Bonhoeffer wrote, or you could read Claiming Christ. The message you get should be strikingly similar. The dragon will not prevail; not in a bunker and not in the Church. There are some who have ears to hear and they will avoid the poison and acknowledge the truth.
Let there be light!